I don’t know if it’s because of the nature of the task, the fact there is less people or just that the exercises are starting to look too familiar, but The Apprentice Episode 9 was a bit stale (please note my second cunning biscuit reference).

The nice thing about the task tonight was the right team lost. I say team; of course it had Melody, Susan and Zoe in it and – not known for their team-working strengths  – the fiery threesome managed to snipe, snigger, roll their eyes and generally offer little or no support to each other.  The result was that the product quite literally sucked, the pitches were awful and ultimately confusion reigned.

Let’s have a look at the contrast in the 2 project managers.  So Helen has looked favourite for a while now and whilst it wasn’t a stellar performance, it was still calm and measured… Just on an important note, she really does need to stop scraping her hair back. It makes her look uptight and unapproachable.  Jim described Helen as "passive"; actually I don’t think she is. Passive implies a lack of interest or engagement.  She absolutely does engage, she gives people the reins, tends not to speak when someone else is speaking and still manages to make confident decisions.  That’s not passive, it’s active.

Zoe on the other hand is frankly not bright (clearly – she’s not on the same pitch-black level of brightness as Natasha), her inability to think through any of the task and her emotional distraction with Melody meant she could not take what actually wasn’t a bad concept and execute in a way that led to success.

Now if we are talking passive, Tom takes the biscuit.  At one point my wife said, "You know, I think he’s waiting for Melody to tell him to breathe". Genius!  Lord Sugar told him he should "assert his authority"…brilliant and I think that’s coaching – or as good as coaching is going to get from Alan.  The challenge, Alan, is that Tom can’t, won’t, will never "assert his authority".  He has none and won’t ever get any.  Tom is a collaborator, he moulds his body language, thoughts and words around the person he is with.  People like him, he poses no threat, has no agenda, is interested in them; what’s not to like? 

Which brings me neatly on to my subject today, because it is such a strong feature of The Apprentice as a whole.  The question of Authority, i.e. the approach to decision-making. 

Melody, the lovely little bully, is what we term High Authority.  Her approach to decision-making is fast, independent and once made, almost irreversible.  Great in a crisis where your options are limited, absolutely appalling when you genuinely want to get team input and consider alternatives.  This shows up in her Empathy and Influencing behaviours, in that she attempts to do neither.  The heart-shaped biscuit (surprised she knew what a heart was) was her quick, independent decision.

People with High Authority do not take feedback well and may, as in Melody’s case, try to brow beat or manipulate people to their way of thinking.  The way she held on to the heart-shaped biscuit in the face of her team telling her "no" and a focus group telling her "no", was classic High Authority, or the "I’m never wrong" trait.  The challenge for Melody is that she can’t change how she feels about this. Yes, she can go on a training course, on facilitation and/or coaching, however if teamwork and collaboration is a key part of the role, she is not the best candidate. 

Why try and mould or change her in to something she is not? It’d be much better to let Melody operate in an environment where fast, confident decisions are valued, e.g. turnaround environments. 

My point here is that in an organisation that values teamwork, collaboration, collective outcomes, Melody will be a Low Performer.  In the opposite environment she will show up as a High Performer.  This, of course, then implies that there is a place for everyone to be a High Performer.

Everyone – and I mean everyone – can be brilliant.  High Performers, even Melody and Zoe, just need the right place to apply their strengths and shine.

The moral of the story is if you have those people you describe as Low Performers (and you do), do them a favour and let them be brilliant somewhere else. 

If you are a Low Performer and you know it, the truth is you can make a choice to be a High Performer, it just may mean stopping what you are doing today.  It’s a leap, I know, but tell me this, how do you feel being described as a Low Performer?  What words do you associate with it? 

Now picture yourself described as a High Performer, how does it feel?  What words would you associate with it?

It’s your choice.